Campus News

Moving, Changing Art Installation to Grace Campus Through May

Story posted November 19, 1999

Through next spring, the Bowdoin campus will be the site of an art installation involving railroad ties, an inspired art major and the labor of his friends.

Ben Butler '00 will take 125 of the 8-foot-long, rough-hewn pieces of wood and lay them out somewhere near Adams or Sills halls. Each week or so, he and a crew of three-to-five friends will move them to another space. Sometimes they will be arranged loosely, other times densely packed. The specific designs have not yet been determined.

"The project is an organic process," Butler said. "I have a couple of ideas, but they will just sort of happen. I'll find a space I like and work within it."

Butler is creating the temporary sculptures as part of his honors project; his advisor is Art Professor Mark Wethli. The railroad ties are on loan from Brunswick Coal and Lumber.

Butler said his intention is to inspire a variety of "dialogues" with the structures he creates: the dialogue between Butler’s new project and these objects, which are used and have some history; between Butler and the railroad ties; between the structure and the surroundings; and last, between the artist and the viewers. The sculptures will not be accompanied by any written explanation because that would artificially influence the viewers’ impressions.

"I hope to create a situation where it sets up questions, opens it up for the viewers," he said.

For Butler, the temporary nature of the sculpture is an important part of the message: "It's almost crucial to make it disappear." However, each sculpture will be carefully photographed before it is torn down.

Butler is already working on his next project: to design, build and display a simple wooden chair. He would then take the chair apart, cut each piece in half, build two identical chairs out of the same pieces and display them for awhile. The process would be repeated -- creating eight chairs, then 16, 32, 64 and ending up with 512 tiny scale models of the original chair made from the same pieces of wood.

"I originally wanted to do this with a large house or a barn, but that was too impractical," Butler said.

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